Roof raised as storm slams coast
By DAVID MOASE
ALICK Pickford knows storms.
He spent much of his working life in the merchant navy and rode out plenty of wild weather so when the wind picked up late on Wednesday night it attracted his attention.
Looking out the window of the cabin where he now lives at Woolgoolga Beach Caravan Park, Mr Pickford could not see much in the wild, dark night but he quickly found out what was going on outside.
As he peered through the gloom, a 70cm-long piece of timber came crashing through the window, just missing his head.
Timber rained on the caravan park about 11.25pm as the roof of the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club was blown off by powerful winds that screamed in from the ocean.
The aluminium roofing was peeled away like the top of a tin can and then sent flying through the dark, carrying hardwood roofing timber with it.
Some of the timber, like the piece that smashed Mr Pickford's window, fell throughout the caravan park while the roof smashed into trees and two houses 200 metres away in Wharf Street.
"I was looking out the window and saw my carport go and then the timber came through," he said.
"It was very close and I'm very lucky.
"I might have to go and buy a lottery ticket."
If all the lucky people in the caravan park bought lottery tickets yesterday, the local newsagency would have done brisk business for most of the day.
Mr Pickford's carport was torn off, just missing neighbouring cabins and landing about 20 metres away.
His white Nissan Pulsar sedan had its back window smashed and the boot crushed, with one heavy piece of timber left sitting behind the driver's seat.
One caravan was blown backwards about 30cm, awnings were shredded and contents of vans and cabins left soaked.
For caravan park manager Rick Wilson, it was a chaotic and sleepless night.
"We're lucky there were no deaths," he said. "That was the first thing we checked.
"Many of the people in the cabins are aged over 70 and it was very scary for them and most are lucky the damage wasn't worse.
"One resident lived through the Battle of Britain and he's very shaken up.
"There was lightning and thunder all night but then it went dead quiet for a while before all hell broke loose."
Mr Wilson's large maintenance shed was badly damaged by flying timber, with ladders bent and one refrigerator being stored inside crushed.
Geoff Nelson, a tourist from Yarraman in Queensland, rode out the storm with his wife in their caravan just metres from the surf club and was happy to be packing up to leave about 7am yesterday.
"It was absolutely frightening," he said.
"We thought about making a run for it but our annexe blew loose and was flapping madly outside the door so we couldn't get out."